Many radio stations can be heard over the Internet through a process called streaming. Streaming allows you to listen to a program while it is being downloaded, instead of waiting for the download to finish Without streaming, you would need to download the entire audio file, save it to your computer, and then open it. There is still a confusing array of streaming formats and players, but here's a selection of sites to get you started.
Ever dreamed of hosting your own radio show? Not only is Live 365 is a directory of thousands of Internet-only radio stations, it also includes tools for and tutorials on producing your own streaming radio station. Other excellent tutorials found in the Help section include an introduction to streaming players ("How to Listen") and a great streaming audio glossary ("Bitrate: For audio broadcasts, a higher bitrate typically means better audio quality.")
Radio-Locator is the place to find radio stations you listen to in the car, or to search for international stations. It is a comprehensive database of 10,000 radio stations, a quarter of which offer Internet audio streams. You can search by call letters, zip code, city, format (such as jazz or K-12) or country. I was surprised to learn my favorite local station offers an online stream, because they don't promote it on air (and I've listened for hundreds and hundreds of carpool hours.) Internet-only stations are not included in the Radio-Locator directory.
America Online's Spinner has merged with Netscape Music to form Radio@ Netscape. They produce 175 free Internet-only music channels that stream 90 million songs per month. With such a large selection of musical styles, you are sure to find a station (or two or three) that you like. And because all the channels are programmed by professional DJs, their quality and interface are consistently good. You can listen with any RealPlayer software, but if you download the Radio@Netscape Plus, you can rate songs, influence song play, and save favorite channels.
Yahoo!'s LAUNCHcast not only hosts three dozen pre-programmed radio stations, but also lets you create a custom radio station with songs and genres you select and rate. Because of licensing considerations, you can't completely control how often individual songs are played , but your ratings do contribute to the overall mix of songs. To create your station, login using your existing Yahoo! username (or register a new one), and follow the on-screen instructions titled "Make Your Own Radio Station."